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Liberals tried pilot project with Facebook data whistleblower in 2016: source

Liberals tried pilot project with Facebook data whistleblower in 2016: source
From CBC - March 21, 2018

The Canadian data scientist who admitted to helping political parties score electoral wins by exploiting the private information of millions of Facebook users also oversaw a short-lived pilot project for the federal Liberals shortly after the 2015 election, The Canadian Press has learned.

Christopher Wylie came forward in recent days with accusations that a voter-profiling company improperly harvested Facebook data from some 50 million users in order to help seal victories for the Trump campaign and in the U.K.'s Brexit referendum.

Wylie has insisted in interviews that he not only played a pivotal role in developing the data-mining technique, he also helped establish Cambridge Analytica, the firm at the heart of the controversy that was first revealed by The Guardian newspaper and the New York Times.

In January 2016, months before U.S. President Donald Trump's win, Wylie pitched his services to the Liberal caucus research office, said a Liberal parliamentary source, who spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss details of a private meeting.

Even before the meeting, Wylie had experience working at the highest levels of the party.

From 2007 to 2009, he worked in the office of the Liberal leader, when the party was helmed by Stephane Dion and Michael Ignatieff. He was also a member of the party's youth commission.

Following the meeting, the Liberals signed a contract with Wylie in 2016 and he launched a pilot project, the source confirmed. The source would not provide further details on the nature of the contract or its duration, saying only that Wylie's services were focused on "information management."

After seeing what Wylie had to offer, the party chose not to proceed further with the project, said the source, who added that it's not uncommon for political parties to try out the services of contractors for brief periods of time.

The contract was awarded in accordance with all the procurement rules, and at no time did Wylie have access to anyone's personal data, the source added.

Liberals say no contract ever signed

However, Liberal party spokesman Braeden Caley said in an email that the party did not contract Wylie to do any work after staffers met with him in January 2016.

When asked about the party's interactions with the data expert, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that a meeting took place between Wylie and the Liberal caucus research bureau in January 2016.

"Mr. Wylie did some preliminary work for the Liberal caucus research bureau but ultimately it was decided not to move forward with his services," Chantal Gagnon said in a brief email.

Earlier this week, The Canadian Press spoke with an acquaintance of Wylie's who described having drinks with the data expert in Ottawa in November 2015, a few weeks after the federal election.

Facebook denies inappropriate data use

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